The Definition of a Teenager
“Turn to the left and put your hand on your hip. Just pretend to be cool, like you’re hanging out with your friends. Think, ‘Yeah! I’m just chillin’ with my own style’ “. This photographer was too funny. You’d wonder how a middle-aged man could maintain such enthusiasm in shooting pictures for the fashion section of a teenage magazine as though he was capturing a double rainbow in a canyon of Yosemite National Park.
I had managed to walk down the hallway in stilettos, and off to Hearst Tower’s Studio D for my very first photo shoot for Seventeen magazine. The photographer tested the lights as I stepped on and off the wooden square towards the back of the room. Obviously, I knew why I was being placed on the square but I couldn’t help but feel bewildered. This crew seemed so glamorous and well-groomed that I could’ve voluntarily swapped places and snapped their photos instead.
While I was on the midnight ferry boat home on that Friday night, exhaustion possessed every part of my body and took the life out of me – a feeling that none of my friends would ever have to endure until giving birth or experiencing a combat mission in Africa. To them, this ferry is a boat that sails the ocean for their leisure, to the marvelous island of Manhattan where they spend a night out for dinner, or loiter from store to store on the cobblestone streets of SoHo. To me, this ferry was something like the Titanic. Ultimately, it would lead to the death of me.
Exhaustion striked me every night with a beating, taking the life out of me over and over again. Such as the night before, after my performance at a local benefit show. Such as the night before that, after spending quality time with my laptop and a large metal can filled with chemicals and caffeine to keep me company until dawn.
There were just so many things to do and so many different people to be! I didn’t want to go to the movies, I wanted to go to the concert hall. It was as though my friends lived in California and I lived in NYC – I always needed to be ahead in my own time. I was under pressure to grow up fast, act professional, and give impressions of maturity. I’m talking triple lattes, stilettos and lipstick, study groups in Central Park, the New York Times and cups of tea. Did this make me a classy and mature teenager of America? I can’t count how many times I’ve longed to go to a school football game or a trip to the mall afterschool like my friends near home. I constantly felt a yearning for teenage normality, the kind that doesn’t include downing caffeine and stressing about deadlines like a 46-year old journalist. I knew it wasn’t going to happen though.
They say that our surroundings define who we are. My friends are the characters in a picturesque high school movie. Who am I? Sometimes, I am the constant flicker of sunlight on every speeding taxi. Other times, Manhattan smokes me so hard that I become the waft of pollution that burns from every building’s exhaust.